A Life in Parts

A Life in Parts

by Bryan Cranston

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Overview

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston

“Nothing short of riveting...an engrossing first-person account by one of our finest actors” (Huffington Post)—both a coming-of-age story and a meditation on creativity, devotion, and craft—Bryan Cranston, beloved and acclaimed star of one of history’s most successful TV shows, Breaking Bad.

Bryan Cranston began his acting career at the age of seven, when his father, a struggling actor and sometime director, cast him in a commercial for United Way. By fifth grade he was starring in the school play, spending hours at the local movie theater, and re-enacting favorite scenes with his brother in their living room. Cranston seemed destined to be an actor. But then his father left. And his family fell apart. Troubled by his father’s missteps, Cranston abandoned his acting aspirations and resolved to pursue a steadier career in law enforcement. Then, on a two-year cross-country motorcycle journey, Cranston re-discovered his talent for acting and found his mission and his calling.

In this “must-read memoir” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), Cranston traces the many roles he inhabited throughout his remarkable life, both on and off screen. For the first time he shares the story of his early years as an actor on the soap opera Loving, his recurring spots on Seinfeld, and his time as bumbling father Hal on Malcolm in the Middle, to his tour-de-force, Tony-winning performance as Lyndon Baines Johnson in Broadway’s All the Way, to his most iconic role of all: Breaking Bad’s Walter White.

“An illuminating window into the actor’s psyche” (People), Cranston has much to say about creativity, devotion, and craft, as well as innate talent and its challenges and benefits and proper maintenance. “By turns gritty, funny, and sad” (Entertainment Weekly), ultimately A Life in Parts is a story about the joy, the necessity, and the transformative power of simple hard work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476793856
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 10/11/2016
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 492,761
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Bryan Cranston won four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad. He holds the honor of being the first actor in a cable series, and the second lead actor in the history of the Emmy Awards, to receive three consecutive wins. In 2014 he won a Tony Award for his role as Lyndon Johnson in the bio-play All the Way. In film, Cranston received an Academy Award nomination for his leading role in Trumbo. Among his numerous television and film appearances, he was nominated for a Golden Globe and three Emmys for his portrayal of Hal in FOX’s Malcolm in the Middle. He is the author of A Life in Parts.

Read an Excerpt

A Life in Parts


  • She stopped coughing. Maybe she’d fallen back asleep. Then suddenly vomit flooded her mouth. She grasped at the sheets. She was choking. I instinctively reached to turn her over.

    But I stopped myself.

    Why should I save her? This little junkie, Jane, was threatening to blackmail me, expose my enterprise to the police, destroy everything I had worked for, and wipe out the financial life preserver I was trying to leave my family—the only legacy I could leave them.

    She gurgled, searching for a gasp of air. Her eyes rolled back in her head. I felt a stab of guilt. Goddamn it, she’s just a girl. Do something.

    But if I stepped in now, wasn’t I just delaying the inevitable? Don’t they all at some point end up dead? And poor dumb comatose Jesse, my partner, lying beside her. She’s the one who got him on this shit in the first place. She’d kill them both, kill us all, if I stepped in now and played God.

    I told myself: just stay out of it. When he wakes he’ll discover this tragedy—this accident—on his own. Yes, it’s sad. All death is sad. But he’ll get over it in time. He’ll get past this like every other bad thing that’s happened to us. That’s what humans do. We heal. We move on. A few months from now he’ll barely remember her. He’ll find another girlfriend, and he’ll be fine. Fuck it. We all have to move on.

    I’ll just pretend I wasn’t here.

    But I am here. And she’s a human being.

    Oh God. What have I become?

    And then, somehow, as she was fading, she wasn’t herself anymore. I wasn’t looking at Jane, or Jesse’s girlfriend, or the actor Krysten Ritter. I was looking at Taylor, my daughter, my real daughter. I wasn’t Walter White anymore. I was Bryan Cranston. And I was seeing my daughter die.

    From the moment she was born in 1993—a bit premature, shy of seven pounds, impossibly beautiful—I felt an instant, radical, unconditional love that redefined love. I had never allowed myself to imagine losing her. But now, I was seeing it. Clearly. Vividly. She was slipping from me. She was dying.

    That was not the plan. When I do the homework for such a delicate scene, I don’t make a plan. My goal when I prepare isn’t to plot out each action and reaction, but to think: What are the possible emotional levels my character could experience? I break the scene down into moments or beats. By doing that work ahead of time, I leave a number of possibilities available to me. I stay open to the moment, susceptible to whatever comes.

    The homework doesn’t guarantee anything; with luck, it gives you a shot at something real.

    It was real fear that gripped me—my worst fear. A fear I hadn’t fully expected or come to terms with. And my reaction is there, forever, at the end of that scene. I gasp, and my hand moves to my mouth in horror.

    When the director, Colin Bucksey, said, “Cut,” I was weeping. Deep racking sobs. I explained to the people on set what had happened, what I had seen. Michael Slovis, our cinematographer, embraced me. My castmates, too. I remember in particular Anna Gunn, who played my wife, Skyler. I hugged her. I must have held on for five minutes. Poor Anna.

    Anna knew. As an actor she has a fragility at her core, and she often had a hard time shedding her character’s emotions after shooting difficult scenes.

    That will happen in an actor’s life, and it happened to me that day. It was the most harrowing scene I did on Breaking Bad, and really . . . ever.

    It may seem odd. It may even seem ghoulish. To stand in a room packed with people and lights and cameras and pretend I’m letting a girl choke to death. And then to see my daughter’s face in lieu of that girl. And to call that work. To call that your job.

    But it’s not odd to me. Actors are storytellers. And storytelling is the essential human art. It’s how we understand who we are.

    I don’t mean to make it sound high-flown. It’s not. It’s discipline and repetition and failure and perseverance and dumb luck and blind faith and devotion. It’s showing up when you don’t feel like it, when you’re exhausted and you think you can’t go on. Transcendent moments come when you’ve laid the groundwork and you’re open to the moment. They happen when you do the work. In the end, it’s about the work.

    Every day on Breaking Bad I’d wake up about 5:30 and have coffee, take a shower, get dressed. Some days I was so tired, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.

    I’d drive the nine miles from my condo in Nob Hill to Q Studios, five miles south of the airport in Albuquerque—ABQ as the locals call it. I’d be in the makeup chair by 6:30. I’d shave my head anew. Knock down the nubs. It didn’t take too long for makeup. By 7:00 a.m. we’d see everyone: the other actors, the crew. Then we’d start rehearsing.

    The allotment was a twelve-hour shoot. Plus a one-hour lunch. So a normal day was thirteen hours. It was very rare that the day was shorter. Occasionally, it was longer. Some days went seventeen hours. A lot of it had to do with whether we were on location.

    If it was just a minimum day, we’d wrap at 8:00 p.m. Then I’d grab a sandwich and apple for the road. I didn’t want to take the time to stop. I’d call my wife, Robin, from the car. How are you? Yeah, long day. I’d see how she was doing. I’d ask about Taylor. I’d still be talking to her when I walked into the house. I’d say goodnight and then have that sandwich while looking over what we were doing the next day. I’d take a hot bath with a little glass of red wine. Then I’d hit the sack.

    But even before the drive home, every night after we finished, I’d go in the hair and makeup trailer and take two hot, wet towels that my friends in the makeup department had presoaked, and I’d drape one over my head and I’d wrap the other over my face. I’d sit in the chair and let everything soak off, feeling all the toxins drain away. I’d sit until the towels went cold against my face, leeching myself of Walter White.

    That day I saw Jane die—that day I saw Taylor’s face—that day I went to a place I’d never been, I opened my eyes and stared through the scrim of the white towel into the light above. I’d put everything, everything, into that scene. All the things I was and all the things I might have been: all the side roads and the missteps. All the stuttering successes and the losses I thought might sink me. I was murderous and I was capable of great love. I was a victim, moored by my circumstances, and I was the danger. I was Walter White.

    But I was never more myself.

  • Customer Reviews

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    A Life in Parts 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
    GratefulGrandma 10 months ago
    Believe it or not, I have never seen a single episode of Breaking Bad, I did however love watching Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle. What drew me to this book was finding out more about the actor and what brought him from the lovable, goofy dad to the drug kingpin. I listened to this book on audio and hearing him tell his own story added just a bit more to the information I learned. This book leads us through Cranston's life from childhood, through his adolescence and into adulthood. This man did not have an easy life. The best thing about this book is that he used every experience he had to learn something. He did not make excuses, which would have been easy, but took responsibility to move forward and reach his goals. There are so many quotes that I could add to this review, but I think it is best for the reader to discover no their own. The book touched on so many emotions. As I read I went from sad, to sympathy, to happiness right to laughing out loud. "Tunnel of love baby" will always make me laugh. If you are a fan of memoirs or a Bryan Cranston fan, this is a must read. I am now going to find Breaking Bad on Netflix so I can watch the series that was such an important part of Bryan Cranston's life. This is a 4.5 Star read for me.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Paykasa More than 1 year ago
    Hi. Bryan Cranston won four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad. He holds the honor of being the first actor in a cable series, and the second lead actor in the history of the Emmy Awards, to receive three consecutive wins. In 2014 he won a Tony Award for his role as Lyndon Johnson in the bio-play All the Way.